I feel like I start every post with this sentiment (who am I kidding? These exact words), but – anyone who knows me is well aware that cooking, hosting, and entertaining are my jam. Maybe it comes from my performing background. Maybe it comes from my abundance of energy. Seriously though, I once worked with an acting coach who, at the start of our first session, asked if I was “always this nervous.” I was shocked and told him that I wasn’t nervous at all, to which he responded “Huh. Well, then, it must be an excessive amount of energy.” You can say THAT again, pal.
So, back to cooking and entertaining.
Years ago, my grandmother told me that I was driven to serve. I don’t know if I always see it that way, but I suppose hosting and entertaining is definitely a form of service. I also enjoy being handy and lending my help to friends and family in need, which I think definitely qualifies.
When my husband and I were dating long-distance, I sent him multiple care packages. In hindsight, considering that he and I were in our late 30s and late 20s respectively, this can be considered immature and/or cringeworthy. But I was, and am, a girl in love and I regret nothing. These packages often included some kind of baked good. He was and is a creature of habit who could get by with nothing but brownies or cookies for dessert, but I made a wide variety of easily-shipped treats. Blondies, brownies, bars, all types of cookies, and sweet quick breads. Almost eleven years later, I am STILL not sure if he ever ate all of the things I sent – bless his heart, he wouldn’t break mine by telling me he didn’t like blondies. Heck, it took several years of marriage to find out he wasn’t wild about any kind of tomato sauce. THAT one hurt!
Sure, I baked them for him, but I also did it because I love baking.
After Hurricane Ida, that same grandmother’s house sustained some major damage, and she needed help to go through some items in her office and attic. My mother flew in from New York, and one weekend I met her down there. I knew they had food, but aside from being an extra set of hands and buying supplies, I helped in the best way I knew how – I cooked. I made lasagna, dirty rice, and a few other things, and brought appetizers, wine, and paper products. Maybe “Acts of Service” is the Love Language that I speak after all. We ate, drank, and laughed together and were able to get our minds off the wreckage that surrounded us. Three generations of women with the same first name, taking a break from navigating a tragedy together.
During that same time period, a family member had a health crisis and my husband had to go and spend a few days with them to aid in their recovery. I knew they’d be seeing each other again a couple of weekends later, so I got to work and made two huge pots of soup. I bought meal prep containers and froze individual portions to make it easier for them to just grab, heat, and eat. Once again, I did it for them, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the cooking part.
So I got to thinking. Am I motivated by helping THEM, or by my desire to enjoy myself while chopping, cooking, and prepping? And does it even matter?
I don’t know. I DO know that I don’t care about thanks or accolades. Sure, they’re nice, but it doesn’t bother me if people don’t recognize my kindness. I will remember, and it may or may not affect what I do for them in the future, but in that moment I can honestly say that their reaction is the last thing on my mind. I do get excited about surprising people and often wait for the text that they got whatever it is that I sent. But that’s just because I enjoyed doing what I did for them, and it makes it feel like it was a success; that it was “worth it,” because they enjoyed it as much as I did.
I also think that my drive to do these things stems from insecurity and the desire to somehow feel “worthy.” Worthy of being in attendance at an event, or worthy of being a valuable friend or family member. Sort of like I’m paying my way without exchanging any money. I think my insecurity is something I definitely need to work on, but I don’t think I’ll ever lose my desire to serve and provide. There’s also a huge sense of accomplishment that I feel when I start with a counter full of ingredients and end up with a huge spread, or a cooler full of individually frozen soups, or a trunk full of supplies.
The only issue with my generosity, though, is the potential for being taken advantage of.
Just because I LIKE doing these things doesn’t mean I deserve to have them demanded of me, or for people to assume I’ll just do them without asking me first. Like everyone else, my life is very busy. Eight-year-old twins, a full-time job, a dog, a home, mountains of laundry, and more take up most of my time, so sometimes I have to be selective in what I can take on.
Fortunately, people don’t attempt it often – in addition to an overabundance of energy, I also have a strong personality and minimal fear or filter, so I’m not afraid to say no to people (and, if necessary, tell them *exactly* why). One of the benefits of getting older, I suppose.
I like the opportunity to volunteer to do things, not to have them thrown at me with no regard to where it will fit into my life.
Once again, though, does my motive matter?
If the recipient benefits from my kindness, and I don’t feel put out, I just don’t think it does. In fact, I think it’s better, because I’m not bitter about having to do things for other people, and I actually got enjoyment and fulfillment out of it. I do it voluntarily; the recipients rarely ask and if they do, I almost always do more than they asked (there goes that need for worthiness again). I didn’t buy a small pack of paper plates for my grandmother after Ida, she got the 500-pack from Sam’s. Go big or go home, y’all.
All that to say, I don’t know what my driving force is, but regardless, I’m okay with it. Call me if you get sick – I’ve got soup supplies in my pantry and freezer, and extra meal prep containers in the cabinet. If I’ve had an extra coffee that morning, you might even get a lasagna!